meta-scriptLady A On How New Project 'What A Song Can Do' Helped Them Rediscover Their Purpose | GRAMMY.com
Lady A On How New Project 'What A Song Can Do' Helped Them Rediscover Their Purpose

Lady A

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

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Lady A On How New Project 'What A Song Can Do' Helped Them Rediscover Their Purpose

GRAMMY.com caught up with Lady A about how their perspectives have shifted throughout the past year and the meaningful music that came out of it

GRAMMYs/Jul 13, 2021 - 10:36 pm

Like many artists, Lady A had plans derailed in 2020. The country trio had released their eighth album, Ocean, in late 2019 and had a four-month summer tour planned before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Despite having a new album in tow, the group decided to use their unexpected downtime to write more music — and it turned out to be the best thing to happen to them. 

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Not only did the band end up with a whole album worth of new songs, but they also found a deeper meaning to what they do. Those developments combine on "What a Song Can Do," the title track from their first project under their new shortened moniker. (Originally Lady Antebellum, Lady A changed their name in light of the Black Lives Matter movement last year because it has associations to the slavery era. The name change resulted in a controversial lawsuit with soul singer Anita White, who says she has performed under the stage name Lady A for decades. As of press time, the artists have not reached an agreement, but the band has suggested in recent interviews that their "intentions were misunderstood.") The trio released the first half of the album with a 7-song collection on June 25. 

"It was a transformative year for all of us," singer Charles Kelley says. "It only brought us stronger and closer. We have more purpose now because of this past year." 

GRAMMY.com caught up with Kelley and his Lady A bandmates, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, about how their perspectives have shifted throughout the past year and the meaningful music that came out of it. 

I imagine that this project is mostly a result of the downtime you've had in the past year or so?

Haywood: We had Ocean, and we were gearing up for the whole tour for Ocean when the pandemic hit. So that was just a bit of whiplash. We really hadn't written since we put out Ocean. So we went back to the drawing board. It’s pretty much our collection from 2020.

Kelley: We wanted it to be a reflection of where we are right now. Songs like "Fire" and "Worship What I Hate" are such an autobiography of how we were feeling during this time — trying to assess our addiction to social media or drinking too much, or unhealthy habits. It's a very hopeful record as well, with songs like "What a Song Can Do." It does feel like a very authentically Lady A record. 

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What have you taken from the past year?

Kelley: I think we learned a lot about ourselves and what we want to represent as a band — the message we want to send and the example we want to be for our kids. We want our music to be a place that everyone feels they can be a part of. This year has put so much of that into perspective and only made us even more determined to grow our philanthropic efforts, and just grow as human beings. 

When you selected "Champagne Night" on Songland, Hillary said it was "what we need in our catalog right now." The vibe of this collection fits what “Champagne Night” brought — do you feel like that song kind of ignited a fire in you?

Scott: It definitely did. And we've had to kind of grieve the fact that we never got to really perform it in front of anybody. [Laughs]. That experience was really incredible. It stretched us creatively in a way that we've never been stretched before. When we heard ["Champagne"], we were like, "This is gonna fit so great in a live show."

Kelley: I keep being reminded that we have two number ones that we haven't really gotten the tour on. It’s going to be interesting to see where we can put that into a setlist and see that reaction.

I think "What A Song Can Do" is going to have a great reaction live because of how the message will resonate with fans. Is there a song in your catalog that you’ve felt the most impact from?

Haywood: "I Run to You" stands out as a song that's provided a lot of hope, encouragement, and inspiration to people.

Kelley: The lyric: "This world keeps spinning faster to a new disaster, so I run to you." It’s funny, that song was almost meant for this time. We leaned on each other so much. We leaned on our spouses so much. That one is probably even ahead of "Need You Now." Lyrically, it’s the song I'm most proud of being a part of.

Scott: There was another song on our [first] record called "One Day You Will." I see a lot of pictures of people with that [phrase] tattooed on their body. It’s one that’s just struck a chord. That is one of the most special parts of what we get to do — seeing how we're being invited into people's most personal moments in their lives through our music. That's a gift.

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Does anything feel different now that you're kind of in this new, fresh chapter of your career?

Scott: We're all having a bit more nerves than we've had in years past, just because we're entering back into these environments. We’ve said it a lot, but it feels new again. That can be a little scary — and also really beautiful — for something we've done together for so long to feel new again. More than anything, we're just excited to get into some good, lengthy rehearsals, get our lungs back and envision the show.

Kelley: We're closer than we've ever been, too. We leaned on each other so much during this time. In a weird way, we kind of grew confidence by sharing all those fears and insecurities, and then coming out and going, "Alright, we're still here, we're still doing this, let's make some music and do what we feel like we were called to do."

Haywood: Just a lot of gratitude. I think that's just the keyword for us. The respect we have for each other, and the validation in what we all bring to the band.

Speaking of what you all bring to the band, do you ever get blown away by your own harmonies? There are so many haunting moments on this project — you must feel it too sometimes.

[All laugh]

Haywood: When we're in the studio and we get to the finishing stages when all of the harmonies are together, there's definitely moments that give me chills. Like, Ooh, there's that duet thing I remember from "Love Don't Live Here." Or There's that harmony that hit on "All We'd Ever Need" from our first record." [Sometimes] it's like, when our three voices [are] together, they sort of sound like one voice, right? So there's just a neat texture and thing that happens when it's all together. It's exciting.

February marked 10 years since your huge night at the GRAMMYs with "Need You Now." When you think back to how you were feeling that night, do you remember thinking anything about what the future held for you as a band?

Haywood: I mean, it was one of the biggest moments we've ever had. There was kind of life before that night and then life after that night. I remember I was out to lunch at a random restaurant the next day, and people were commenting like, "Oh my gosh, y’all we're awesome last night!" And it was like, "Wow, a lot of people know our music now because of that night and what Need You Now was able to do." It was a total life-changing, career-changing moment. It still feels surreal 10 years later.

What are you looking to accomplish in this next chapter of Lady A?

Scott: I think it's just continuing to rein in our own personal growth. The music, the relationship, the friendship we have. It's wanting to just continue to deepen as people and together as a band, and to forge ahead in the message that we want to leave this world with — which is that our music is unifying and hopefully makes people feel welcome. And helps them process their emotions. [Laughs]

Kelley: I just think there's so much more that we want to accomplish as a band, and not necessarily from a success standpoint, but just from a musical standpoint and on a human level. I'm feeling more hopeful and purposeful now than we had in the past. There's a responsibility to where we are as human beings and parents and all that stuff.

I wonder if that's maybe why this project feels so powerful because you are more hopeful as a group and there’s more purpose behind it.

Haywood: I hope people feel that we've lived some life in these 15 years as a band, and there's more wisdom and more perspective that we can share in our music. That's our goal, to continue to show where we are, what we've learned and the type of people we are.

Would you say this is the most Lady A that Lady A has ever been?

Haywood: Absolutely. It starts and ends with the three of us. If we're excited, happy, and pouring our hearts into this music, that's where we feel the success and where we feel the most fulfilled — when things feel like they're working between us creatively. I feel like we’ve found a sweet spot with that. 

Kelley: Watching other artists kind of go through what we did, [realizing], "Okay, we're not new. How do we kind of redefine ourselves?" Sometimes you lose sight of songs that are truly your core, and I do think there were times that we were chasing radio a little bit, trying to predict what would be a hit instead of just doing what we do. 

Our first single with this new label, "What If I Never Get Over You," was a prime example of [realizing] that this is what the fans want. They want you to be you. This album is taking that one step further. Songs like "Talk of This Town," "Fire," "Worship What I Hate" are some of the most present songs we've ever written. They're very much about where we are right now. I think that's definitely going to continue to be our approach moving forward.

What hints can you share about what's coming in chapter two?

Haywood: There's a really exciting collaboration on chapter two. It's going to be a really fun, summer country song that we've never done anything like before. There are definitely some more upbeat moments on the next one, some more personal parts. The rest of the story is coming up.

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon
Toby Keith performs at the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon

After a two-year battle with stomach cancer, country star Toby Keith passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 62. Revisit his influence with five of his seminal tracks, including his debut hit "Should've Been a Cowboy."

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 04:39 pm

We may have known about Toby Keith's stomach cancer diagnosis for nearly two years, but that didn't keep the news of his Feb. 5 death from hitting hard. The oftentimes outspoken country music star enjoyed a three-decade career as one of the genre's beloved hitmakers, courtesy of unabashed hits like "Who's Your Daddy?," "Made In America" and "I Wanna Talk About Me."

Occasionally his in-your-face persona clashed with folks, particularly when it came to his political views in recent years. But for the most part, it was Keith's blue-collar upbringing and work ethic that shined through and resonated with his legion of listeners. 

It wasn't until his thirties that the future Songwriters Hall of Famer landed his first record deal in 1993, following years grinding away as a rodeo hand, in oil fields and as a semi-professional football player to make ends meet. The Oklahoma-born crooner would go on to record 20 No.1 hits, sell over 40 million records across 26 albums, and gross nearly $400 million touring — cementing himself as one of country music's most successful artists in the process.

As we look back on Keith's life and legacy, here are five essential cuts from the seven-time GRAMMY nominee, whose memory will live on in the hearts of country music artists and fans alike.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" (1993)

Few artists strike gold with their maiden release, but Keith did just that when his song "Should've Been A Cowboy" launched in February 1993. The upbeat track received widespread acclaim, eventually reaching No. 1 on the Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart a few months later.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" takes on a distinctly traditional tone as Keith romanticizes cowboy culture by referencing classic westerns like Gunsmoke with nods to Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty in addition to six-shooters, cattle drives and Texas Rangers abound. The tune also reinforces the notion that cowboys just have more fun, whether its "stealin' the young girls' hearts, just like Gene [Autry] and Roy [Rogers]" or "runnin' wild through the hills chasin' Jesse James." 

By the looks of Keith's career, he certainly had his fair share of fun, and it may not have come if it weren't for "Should've Been A Cowboy."

"How Do You Like Me Now?!" (1999)

After a successful '90s run (which included two more No. 1s in "Who's That Man" and "Me Too"), Keith kicked off the 2000s with his fourth No. 1 hit, "How Do You Like Me Now?!" In signature Toby Keith fashion, he confronts his haters by asking the titular, rhetorical question, posed to his high school's valedictorian — who was also his crush. "I couldn't make you love me but I always dreamed about livin' in your radio," he sings on the brazen chorus.

The song is a stern reminder to never let anyone keep you from chasing your dreams; it's also a lesson of standing strong on your convictions. Its message also proved fitting for Keith's career: After Mercury Records Nashville rejected the song (and its namesake album) in the late '90s, Keith got out of his deal with them in favor of signing with DreamWorks Records, with whom he released the project a year later. Not only did the single go on to spend five weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, but it became the singer's first major crossover hit.

"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" (2002)

Keith was never afraid to share his opinion in public or in song, especially when it came to displaying his patriotism and appreciation for those who protect the United States. While the Okie approached this from a softer side on 2003's "American Soldier," his most renowned musings on the subject without a doubt came a year earlier with "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

On the angsty ballad — which was written in the wake of his father's March 2001 death and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — Keith channels a universal feeling of American hurt and pride. "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" inspired an equal outpouring of support and outrage that, for better or worse depending on where you stand, helped cement the song into the annals of country music lore.

"I Love This Bar" (2003)

We've all got our favorite watering hole full of its own quirks and characters, from winners to losers, chain-smokers and boozers. Keith taps into that feel-good, hometown hang feeling with "I Love This Bar," a lighthearted tale from 2003's Shock'n Y'all that makes dingy dive bars feel like the prime party destination.

The midtempo track — Keith's 12th No. 1 — further plays into country music drinking tropes as Keith proclaims, "I like my girlfriend, I like to take her out to dinner, I like a movie now and then" before making a hard pivot, adding "but I love this bar." 

All joking aside, the song, and all of the unique individuals described within it, have a harmony to them inside those hallowed walls. It's a kinship that seems more and more difficult to find in today's world, and a sentiment best captured at the song's conclusion: "come as you are."

"As Good As I Once Was" (2005)

Your best days may be behind you, but that doesn't mean you can't still live your best life and thrive in the present — even if you don't get over hangovers as quickly as you used to.

That youthful wisdom is distilled into every lyric of "As Good As I Once Was," a reminiscent story in which a then-44-year-old Keith recounts his prime as a lover, drinker and fighter humbly. That being said, his pride is still quick to take charge with convictions like "I still throw a few back, talk a little smack, when I'm feelin' bullet proof."

Lasting six weeks at No. 1, "As Good As I Once Was" was the biggest of the 15 chart-toppers Keith tallied in the 2000s. And though he scored one more in the following decade (along with several other hits, including the playful drinking song "Red Solo Cup"), "As Good As I Once Was" will live on as one of Keith's quintessential messages of fun-loving confidence: "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was."

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys"

Photo Credit: CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More

The re-aired tribute to the Beach Boys will also feature performances from St. Vincent, My Morning Jacket, Norah Jones, Charlie Puth, and many others, as well as special appearances by Tom Hanks, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and more.

GRAMMYs/Mar 14, 2023 - 04:00 pm

Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."

"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

After six decades of game-changing innovation and culture-shifting hits, the Beach Boys stand tall as one of the most legendary and influential American bands of all time.

Now, the iconic band will be honored by the Recording Academy and CBS with a star-studded "Beach Boys party" for the ages: "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," a two-hour tribute special featuring a lineup of heavy hitters, including John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and many more, who will perform all your favorite Beach Boys classics.

Wondering when, where and how to watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys"? Here's everything you need to know.

When & Where Will The Special Air?

"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.* A one-hour version of the tribute will air on MTV at a future date to be announced.

Who Will Perform, And What Will They Perform?

The following is a list of artists and performances featured on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys":

Read More: 5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More

Who Are The Special Guests & Presenters?

In addition to the musical performances, the special features appearances by Drew Carey, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Jam, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, John Stamos, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr.

Beach Boys core members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks are featured guests.

What's The Context For The Special?

Filmed at the iconic Dolby Theater in Los Angeles after the 2023 GRAMMYs, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" airs during the year-long celebration of the Beach Boys' 60th anniversary. Counting more than 100 million records sold worldwide and recipients of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of all time, and their music has been an indelible part of American history for more than six decades.

Keep an eye on GRAMMY.com for more exclusive content leading up to "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."

*Paramount+ Premium subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service as well as on-demand. Essential tier subscribers will have access to the on-demand the following day after the episode airs.

Watch backstage interviews & exclusive content from "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys”

A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys Tribute Concert To Feature Performances By John Legend, Brandi Carlile, St. Vincent, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, Weezer & More; Tickets On Sale Now
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys"

Photo Credit: CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys Tribute Concert To Feature Performances By John Legend, Brandi Carlile, St. Vincent, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, Weezer & More; Tickets On Sale Now

Taking place Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, the live concert special will feature a star-studded lineup that also includes Charlie Puth, LeAnn Rimes, My Morning Jacket, Norah Jones, Pentatonix, Lady A, and many others.

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2023 - 05:44 pm

Updated Saturday, April 9, to include air date information about "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."

"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" airs on Sunday, April 9, from 8 – 10 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. A one-hour version of the tribute will air on MTV at a future date to be announced.

A few days after the 2023 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy, along with Tenth Planet Productions and CBS, will present A GRAMMY Salute to the Beach Boys, a special tribute concert honoring the legendary, GRAMMY-nominated music icons, the Beach Boys. Taking place Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, the live concert special will feature a star-studded performer lineup that includes GRAMMY-winning artists and past and current GRAMMY nominees including Beck, Brandi Carlile, Fall Out Boy, Andy Grammer, Hanson, Norah Jones, Lady A, John Legend, Little Big Town, Michael McDonald, Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket, Pentatonix, Charlie Puth, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Take 6, and Weezer, who will all celebrate and honor the Beach Boys’ everlasting music and impactful career.

Tickets for A GRAMMY Salute to the Beach Boys are available now.

WHEN:

Concert:
Wednesday, Feb. 8
Doors: 5:30 p.m. PT
Concert: 6:30 p.m. PT

WHERE: 
Dolby Theatre
6801 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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